Last week Nathaniel Givens at T&S reminded us of how many Mormons produce speculative fiction (lots and lots) and some possible reasons why. For the past year or so I have semi-systematically read a hundred or so prominent SpecFic works  and have been surprised, not by the fantastical coming from Mormon pens and keyboards, but by the Mormons coming from mainstream desks.  Of the novels I read, I noticed six with unambiguous references to Mormons: Stranger in a Strange Land, Hyperion, Contact, Lucifer’s Hammer, The Stand, and Snow Crash. As part of our “Mormonism’s Many Images” series, I will briefly discuss how these novels utilize Mormonism.
*** Spoiler Alert: Plot points appear below. ***
At first I was pretty excited to notice Mormon references in non-Mormon-targeted fiction, thinking that I could get an article out of it. Then I figured out that half the internet already knew about this stuff. If you take nothing else from this post… Adherents.com has useful, though not completely consistent, info on religion in SpecFic. 
It turns out that the six Mormon references I stumbled upon are not alone; there are almost two hundred in the Adherents database for Mormons in “science fiction.” Plotting publications with Mormon references versus time shows one or two references per year from 1950 to the 1970s and then an approximately linear increase thereafter. However, I did not attempt to control for the general increase in SpecFic sales in the same time period, so I don’t know if the actual percentage has increased.
Each of the six references I found was brief—one-sentence to one-page—and, in my literary opinion, could be deleted or changed to a different religion without negative consequence. Since the authors didn’t have to put in Mormon references, the fact that they did calls for explanation (which explanations I have mostly failed to discern).
Now to the books.
Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land (NY: GP Putnam’s Sons, 1961; citations from NY: Ace, 2003/1987 mass market paperback).
A character under theological duress consults multiple sacred texts, including The Book of Mormon (307); a new church attracts converts from various backgrounds, including “One Mormon family of the new schism” (337); and an unscrupulous religion is described as having “shown how to get by with almost anything. Much more than Joseph Smith was lynched for” (332). 
The fourth instance comes from SIASL’s (partially satirical) imagination of how religious movements develop and interact. When the new “Church of All Worlds” begins to successfully attract converts, older churches—including “Mormons, Christian Scientists, Roman Catholics” and “any fellow travelers whose good words counted more than inconsequential differences in creed or ritual”—close ranks against “false prophets” (374). 
Perhaps more strikingly, Heinlein constructs a Weberian shift: the charismatic, sexually subversive religious founder (named Smith) acquires followers, is martyred, and is then succeeded by a pragmatist.
Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Lucifer’s Hammer (Chicago: Playboy Press, 1977), p 126.
The possible Earth-impact (late 1970s) of a comet inspires a global frenzy of food-storage purchases. A journalist in southern California wonders: “What religious sect was it that had required all its members to keep a year’s supply of food? They’d been doing that since the Sixties, too. Harvey made another mental note. They’d be worth interviewing, after That Day had passed.”
Of the six references here, Lucifer’s Hammer provides the most organic, seamless one. Mormons are simply part of the world in the novel and known, but not well-known, for food storage. In a frenzy of food-storage purchases, a journalist wonders what the Mormons think. Maybe in a less stressful situation the journalist might even have remembered the name.
Earth scientists (1980s) detect an unambiguously extra-terrestrial communication. Intense public discussion ensues. The narrator spends 350 words cataloging some of the “mutually exclusive apocalyptic and eschatological doctrines” of twenty-two named groups (mostly religions). The last line of the two paragraphs is “The Mormon Church declared it a second revelation by the angel Moroni.” 
In my reading, Moroni is the rhetorical climax of the list rather than the unimportant trailing detail. The only literary function I perceive of featuring Mormons/Moroni in this way is that it closes out the litany with a near Other. On the presumption that most of Sagan’s readers would be nominally-Christian Americans, putting Catholics and Protestants at the beginning, right after various post-colonialists and followed by several (mostly-)not-strong-in-the-US groups, Sagan can “hit close to home,” but not too close. On second thought, I am not persuaded. I don’t know what Sagan was thinking. It seems clear, however, that he didn’t do much homework about Mormonism. I think Contact wins the “Most Tone-deaf, Uninformed Usage” award out of this sample of six. (Also: M* discussed an aspect of the movie as a non-Mormon Mormon film in 2006.)
After humans from Earth colonize the galaxy, a powerful alien entity appears. One religion believes that “the Shrike is the Lord of Pain and the Angel of Final Atonement, come from a place beyond time to announce the end of the human race. … He’s Michael the Archangel and Moroni and Satan and Masked Entropy and the Frankenstein monster all rolled into one package.” 
Here’s Moroni again, in a list again, but it’s not clear this time if it is the Angel Moroni in his roles as presiding officer of Nephite extinction and as annunciator of the Restoration (the most likely candidate, I think) or Captain Moroni the military commander (also plausible, but less well-known outside of Mormondom). I have zero evidence, but it seems possible that an Arnold Friberg painting or two was involved in the formation of the quoted sentence about a big, violent space alien.
Pre-internet, I am dubious that a large percentage of Simmons’ readership would get the Moroni reference, so I am guessing he went for something evocative rather than precise. It is possible, though, that he tried to connect Moroni’s role with the founding of a troublesome religious group with that of the also troublesome religion his characters are discussing.
98% of the human population died suddenly. King uses the retrieval and burial of the bodies of seventy members of “the Church of the Latter-day Saints”—and 1,200 words—to convey something of the psychological state of survivors. He uses the phrase “Latter-Day corpses.”
I’m not sure what King accomplishes by using Mormons. He might have just driven around Boulder and picked a church. He could be playing on the failure of religion to protect its adherents from the “real” powers in the world (the survivors congregate into two camps, coalescing around a good and a bad mystical character, respectively). He could be playing on the stereotype of hyper-competent Mormons, ie, the plague was so bad it got even the ones otherwise expected to survive. He could be playing on a different stereotype—the super nice and innocent Mormon—and illustrating a totalizing corruption of innocence and purity. Mostly, though, I think he just picked a church.
North-American society has splintered into politically autonomous, anarcho-capitalist city-states called “burbclaves.” The “all-Mormon Deseret Burbclave,” in what is now southern California, is implied to be dull and repressive, though Deseret is introduced only to say that a “Young Mafia” group is even more so. 
Genre-wise, Snow Crash is cyberpunk (or postcyberpunk), meaning, among other things, that it’s full of weirdos (aka socially marginalized individuals and groups, many of whom self-identify by their marginalization).  In this sense, Mormons are just another species in the menagerie—that Stephenson pulled off a shelf of Nineteenth-Century stock caricatures—glimpsed in passing to give the hint of the broader society. I don’t recall how many burbclaves are named or described, but I’d guess fewer than ten.
I see two reasons why Stephenson might have chosen Mormons. First, the novel is set in southern California, which has a strong LDS presence. Second, the Mormon stereotype of hyper-conformity and blandness serve as a convenient, othering shorthand. In a more positive vein, Stephenson assumes / predicts / creates a universe in which Mormonism will survive the collapse of North-American society and at least some Mormons will maintain their collective identity.
The end. I don’t have any summative thoughts.
The “Mormonism’s Many Images” series examines current and historical representations of Mormons and Mormonism.
 Autobiographical aside: Don’t tell the Juvenile Instructor Strengthening the Bloggers Committee, but I am neither graduate student nor professor of History. I am, rather, a high-school Physics teacher—a veritable lamb in wolf’s clothing in the Juvenile Instructor wolfpack. Last year, in an effort to help my more literature-y students think more about science and my more science-y students think more about literature, I began to systematically read speculative fiction looking for situations or anecdotes that I could use in class. Russell Arben Fox’s post on the 2011 list from NPR prompted me. (Also, when I started telling people I was a Science teacher, they began asking about SciFi, to which I had only a casual exposure.) I’ve read a bit more than a hundred SpecFic books in the past twelve months. In terms of finding things to talk about in class, the effort has been mostly a bust. However, when I moved my SpecFic collection to my classroom, it prompted (and has continued to prompt) some great discussions and the loaning out of a few dozen books so far. So… I’m calling the project a pedagogical “win.”
 Let’s clarify what my “surprise” might mean. I don’t think my personal reaction to trends in a body of literature tells us anything about that body or the societies that produced it—it tells us something about my reading habits or how much I pay attention. I can’t think of a meaningful way to extrapolate an expected frequency of Mormon representations and then say that Mormon references or Mormon characters are over- or under-represented in a particular genre.
Exceptions would be to exclude zero and ubiquitous references. If no SpecFic books (set in a near-variant of this universe) ever referred to Mormons, I would wonder why, just as I would if, say, 40% of all non-Mormon-targeted fiction books did refer to Mormons. Obviously, I’m pulling the 40% out of the air—and my point is that I can’t think of any reason to draw a line and say that 27% (or whatever) is disproportionately prominent inclusion while 26% is expected. Should we expect one in every hundred bestselling novels to mention Mormons? have a Mormon minor character? have a Mormon major character?
Note, however, that the question of authorship is amenable to statistical treatment. Let’s say, for very broad conversation, that 1% of the Anglophone population is Mormon.* If we can show that Mormon authors control substantially more than 1% of the non-Mormon-targeted SpecFic market, then that is something that calls for explanation. I also think we can make comparisons between genres. I haven’t counted, but it wouldn’t shock me if there were more Mormon references in a 100-Best list of SpecFic than, say, a similar list of “greatest novels.”
*(The populations of the United States (312M), United Kingdom (62.6M), Canada (34.5M), Australia (22.6M), and New Zealand (4.41M) sum to about 440 million (Sorry, English-language literature readers living elsewhere). Wikipedia says there are 6.94M members of record in those countries or 1.6%. I’ve rounded down for convenience and as a kludge to account for those who do not identify as Mormon.)
 Their inclusion criteria and formatting are sometimes too flexible for my tastes, but their lists of Mormon (and other denominational) appearances in genre lit seem broad and deep. Adherents.com: page 1, 2, 3, & 4.
 “She came back to their flat one day to find him doing nothing, surrounded by books–many books: The Talmud, the Kama-Sutra, Bibles in several versions, the Book of the Dead, the Book of Mormon, Patty’s precious copy of the New Revelation, various Apocrypha, the Koran, the unabridged Golden Bough, the Way, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, sacred writings of a dozen other religions major and minor…” (307);
[Listing participants in the Church of All Worlds]: “…two Fosterites… one circumcised Jew and his wife and four children… One Catholic couple with a little boy… One Mormon family of the new schism–that’s three more, and their kids. The rest are Protestant and one atheist…” (337).
 “Bishop Oxtongue, at the New Grand Avenue Temple, preached on the text (Matt. XXIV:24): ‘For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.’ He made clear that his diatribe did not refer to Mormons, Christian Scientists, Roman Catholics… nor to any fellow travelers whose good words counted more than inconsequential differences in creed or ritual… but solely to upstart heretics who were seducing faithful contributors away from the faiths of their fathers.” (374).
 “Attendance in churches had soared all over America. The Message, Ellie believed, was a kind of mirror in which each person sees his or her own beliefs challenged or confirmed. It was considered a blanket vindication of mutually exclusive apocalyptic and eschatological doctrines. In Peru, Algeria, Mexico, Zimbabwe, Ecuador, and among the Hopi, serious public debates took place on whether their progenitor civilizations had come from space; supporting opinions were attacked as colonialist. Catholics debated the extraterrestrial state of grace. Protestants discussed possible earlier missions of Jesus to nearby planets, and of course a return to Earth. Muslims were concerned that the Message might contravene the commandment against graven images. In Kuwait, a man arose who claimed to be the Hidden Imam of the Shiites. Messianic fervor had arisen among the Sossafer Chasids. In other congregations of Orthodox Jews there was a sudden renewal of interest in Astruc, a zealot fearful that knowledge would undermine faith, who in 1305 had induced the Rabbi of Barcelona, the leading Jewish cleric of the time, to forbid the study of science or philosophy by those under twenty-five, on pain of excommunication. Similar currents were increasingly discernible in Islam. A Thessalonian philosopher, auspiciously named Nicholas Polydemos, was attracting attention with a set of passionate arguments for what he called the ‘reunification’ of religions, governments, and peoples of the world. Critics began by questioning the ‘re.’ ¶ “UFO groups had organized round-the-clock vigils at Brooks Air Force Base, near San Antonio, where the perfectly preserved bodies of four occupants of a flying saucer that had crash-landed in 1947 were said to be languishing in freezers; the extraterrestrials were reputed to be one meter tall and to have tiny flawless teeth. Apparitions of Vishnu had been reported in India, and of the Amida Buddha in Japan; miraculous cures by the hundreds were announced at Lourdes; a new Bodhisattva proclaimed herself in Tibet. A novel cargo cult was imported from New Guinea into Australia; it preached the construction of crude radio telescope replicas to attract extraterrestrial largesse. The World Union of Free Thinkers called the Message a disproof of the existence of God. The Mormon Church declared it a second revelation by the angel Moroni.” Carl Sagan, Contact (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1985), p 133-134 (p 127-128 in 1986/1997 mass-market pb).
 “‘Can you tell me what aspect of the Shrike legend you planned to use in your poem?’ King Billy asked softly. ¶ ‘Sure,’ I said. ‘According to the Shrike Cult gospel that the indigenies started, the Shrike is the Lord of Pain and the Angel of Final Atonement, come from a place beyond time to announce the end of the human race. I liked that conceit.’ ¶ ‘The end of the human race,’ repeated King Billy. ¶ ‘Yeah. He’s Michael the Archangel and Moroni and Satan and Masked Entropy and the Frankenstein monster all rolled into one package,’ I said. ‘He hangs around the Time Tombs waiting to come out and wreak havoc when it’s mankind’s time to join the dodo and the gorilla and the sperm whale on the extinction Hit Parade list.’”
 In the second edition King moved the plot forward a decade, changed some details about the geographical setting, and added 150,000 words. I read the second edition and I don’t recognize anything in the Adherents.com entry, so I presume it refers to the first edition: “A large segment of this novel takes place in Utah, and the state is mentioned frequently, especially between pages 750 and 800. During one extended segment the main characters take refuge in the Hotel Utah…. Also, the famous Latter-day Saint performing family the Osmonds are mentioned on page 224.”
 “The Compton Nova Sicilia franchise is a grisly scene. It is a jamboree of Young Mafia. These youths are even duller than the ones from the all-Mormon Deseret Burbclave. The boys are wearing tedious black suits. The girls are encrusted with pointless femininity. Girls can’t even be in the Young Mafia; they have to be in the Girls’ Auxiliary and serve macaroons on silver plates. ‘Girls’ is too fine a word for these organisms, to high up the evolutionary scale. They aren’t even chicks.” Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash (NY: Bantam Books, 1992), p 164.
 I’m sure my lit-crit readers are cringing now, both for my lack of nuance and my bourgeois-normative framing.